This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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The Downside of Updates -
PRIVATE EYELASHES REVISITED
by Jack French, © 2005
(From Radio Recall, October 2005)
This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of “The Illustrated Press.”
By the time my book “Private Eyelashes; Radio’s Lady Detectives” was released by Bear Manor Media in April 2004, four radio stars of whom I had described as in good health in retirement ....had died. This is a risk all writers of nonfiction endure; from the time the manuscript is submitted until the time the book rolls off the presses, you can bet there will be significant changes.
Two OTR personalities, both of whom were mainstays in “Candy Matson, YU 2-8209,” died within two days of each other the last week of December 2003, although I did not learn of their deaths until January 2004. Helen Kleeb, whose supporting roles nearly matched the number of appearances of the three leads on “Candy Matson,” was 96 years old when she died on December 28th. The senior sound man on that series, William “Brownie” Brownell, passed away on December 30, three weeks after his 78th birthday. Both of them had contributed to almost every episode of “Candy Matson” for the two years it was on NBC.
Jan Miner, who was prominent in my book for her roles as the co-lead in both “Casey, Crime Photographer” and “Perry Mason,” died on February 15, 2004 at the age of 86. Although my book related that she was alive and well (in December 2003) and she had unfortunately died before the book saw print, my prediction about her specific area of fame was borne out. I had pointed out that most people today think of her primarily in her long-running TV commercial as “Madge the Manicurist”, hawking Palmolive liquid soap. When her obituaries started appearing, most concentrated on that one commercial and her 25 years at the radio microphone in leading roles were largely glossed over.
Two weeks after Miner’s death, the title lead in “Defense Attorney,” Mercedes McCambrige, passed away on March 2, 2004, having been in relative seclusion for many months. The most surprising thing about her death was that it resulted in revealing her true date of birth. For all of her public life, McCambridge claimed she was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1918. Upon her death, her executor disclosed she had actually been born March 16, 1916, so in life she had subtracted two years and one day from her date of birth. (Not an uncommon occurrence for female performers, Arlene Francis and Marlene Dietrich were among the dozens who fudged about their age.)
While there is no way to predict when elderly people will leave us, one would hope that other mistakes in a nonfiction book could be avoided if sufficient verification of factual data was possible. But, with the constraints of publishing deadlines, such verifications cannot always be concluded in time.
One embarrassment for me involved my section on the kids’ adventure series, “The Lady in Blue.” Like many OTR collectors, I had the two existing audio copies of this crime-busting heroine, whose secret identity was concealed with a blue veil. While the two episodes reveal nothing of the cast, network or time slot, Jay Hickerson’s “Ultimate Guide” advises that “The Lady in Blue” was an NBC Saturday program that ran from May to December of 1951. There can’t be two kids’ series with the same name so it must be the same series, right? Wrong!
Three months after my book was published, I finally found the scripts of the NBC show, thanks to the assistance of ace OTR researcher, Karl Schadow. The scripts reveal this version was a musical variety show for the kiddies, produced at WNBC in Manhattan, with June Winters telling stories and spinning juvenile music records. Conclusion: the two audio episodes are probably audition shows that never aired. And while there are no audio copies of the NBC version, most of the scripts are at the Library of Congress.
Of course, much of what I’ve discovered since the publication of my book is supplemental material which will find its way into the second edition. Some of this material came to me from readers of “Private Eyelashes.” A Chicago police officer wrote me.after reading my section on “Police Woman”, the 1946-47 series with Betty Garde. He told me that Mary Sullivan, on whom the series was based upon, had a 1938 autobiography entitled “My Double Life” and he gave me directions for obtaining it through the Inter-library system.
About a month later, a prominent OTR researcher and author, Martin Grams, Jr. sent me a copy of the original 1946 budget for “Police Woman” which he had found in the papers of the producer, Phillips H. Lord. The economy exercised is surprising, even for that era. As a sustaining show, Lord allowed $ 250 per episode, plus a modest amount for royalties to Sullivan. That total included $ 35 each for five actors for this 15 minute show plus their two hours of rehearsal. The sound man, organist, and director were paid by ABC Network at no cost to Lord.
One of the most delightful discoveries that my book indirectly produced was locating the original star of “Helen Holden, Government Girl”, a combination soap opera and adventure series begun in 1940 in Washington, DC for Mutual. A columnist for “The Washington Post”, John Kelly, wrote a bout my book in the fall of 2004 and included a notice that none of the original cast had ever been found. (Nor did I think they would be since the series went off the air over 60 years prior.) But a Colorado niece of Nancy Ordway contacted Kelly and told him her aunt Nancy, the lead in that series, was alive and well in Key West, FL. Kelly and I tracked her down and interviewed her by telephone. A spry 90 year old, Ordway well remembered the series and was delighted to be “rediscovered.”
When I began the chapter in my book on “Candy Matson, YU 2-8209” I was the beneficiary of the generosity of Stewart Wright, a dedicated OTR researcher, who had reviewed about half of the 93 scripts of that series which are archived at Thousand Oaks Library, about 30 miles from Los Angeles. I could not fit in a trip to the West Coast until the fall of 2004 when I attended the SPERDVAC convention. So I was then able to finish the review of the “Candy Matson” scripts. It was a fascinating event and I learned a great deal of information about the series that was not even hinted at in the fourteen surviving episodes.
Yes, this is
by Timothy Wallace
In the preliminary audition script, Candy Matson was a man (played by Monty Masters) and his girl friend was Christine Blake (the voice of Natalie Masters.) Candy was a rough and tough P.I. under contract to International Insurance Company and was assigned to guard $ 5 million worth of jewelry. Armed thugs stormed the place, wounded Candy, and escaped with most of the jewelry. In the conclusion of the episode, Candy found the robbers, shot one and captured the others.
By the time NBC approved the audition for “Candy Matson” the gender had been changed, Natalie was in the lead, and Monty bowed out of the cast to devote more time to writing and directing the series. A review of the late 1950s and early 1951 scripts revealed an additional surprise: Mallard was not the only boy friend that Candy had on the series.
A new character, Hi Waters, a n engineer , was introduced in the November 13, 1950 episode. Played by Edward Perry, he had his first date with Candy when they attend a football game. In the December 4, 1950 program, Hi took Candy to the movies and Mallard became jealous. The episode one week later had Hi out of town and Candy blushed about him when Rembrandt teased her about her missing boyfriend. Hi and Candy went ice-skating in the January 8, 1951 program. In the episode two weeks later, Candy got Mallard to drive her to a restaurant where she had a dinner date with Hi. Although the romance seemed to be going well, Monty apparently had second thoughts about this subplot so Hi Waters disappeared from the series without a further trace.